In April 2023, Travel & Tapas embarked on another Coliving Spain Project initiative. After 7 colivings visited in 2022, we wanted to continue with our efforts in showcasing coliving spaces around Spain, especially those that are at the beginning of their journeys.
So, in that light, the first coliving for this third project initiative, and the first one in 2023, is a newly-opened, small community coliving located right in the heart of Spain – in Madrid.
When we first heard about Coliving Madrid, it was from a coliver we had previously met in another coliving space during the project initiative. He told us about his friend Lu, whom he met also in a coliving, and about his project Coliving Spain, a home for digital nomads right on the outskirts of Madrid.
We were immediately interested to hear more about Lu’s story so after some conversation and sharing of values and ideas, we decided for Coliving Madrid to be our first coliving destination this year. And today, we’re bringing you his story after a month spent in his space.
It’s not only the story, Lu’s background, and his values that attracted us to come here, but also the fact that his space can potentially become the first community-focused nomad coliving in Madrid.
As a big city, Madrid’s coliving scene was up until now mostly focused on residential colivings and student housing as that was the need the market had mostly seen. However, a lot of nomads are searching for a community-first nomad experience in the cities such as Barcelona, Valencia, Madrid, Sevilla, etc., so we were very excited to explore if this will finally be one of those places that will answer the needs of this type of audience.
After a month spent with Lu in his coliving space, we can say that his idea is promising, the concept has a big potential, and we believe that with effort and dedication, Coliving Madrid can succeed in becoming exactly that – the first community-focused coliving in the Spanish capital.
Here is how our stay went and what we loved about Coliving Madrid:
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After exploring many coliving spaces, Lu knew what he wanted to create – a community. He was lucky enough to have had a property in Madrid at his disposal that he had been renting as an Airbnb for some time, so he decided to put his effort into the house and make a home for digital nomads and remote workers like himself, who would come to explore Madrid and the community for a few weeks to a few months.
Even when the place was only an Airbnb, Lu was unintentionally creating a community experience. His openness to meet new people, welcome them, and host them, is there with or without a coliving.
When speaking about the concept, Lu talks a lot about deep connections, real conversations, experience exchange, and an international community. This is something that is visible from entering the coliving and something that comes naturally to him as a host.
Nevertheless, Lu knows that’s not enough to make things happen, so he makes sure to explore activities and situations that would bring the group together and gather everybody around the same idea or a conversation.
His concept is still in the early phase as it officially opened only a month ago, but the progress and the value are already visible so we’re very excited to see where it will go.
Lu’s space is located just about 15 km from Madrid, in a suburban neighborhood of this enormous city, called Rivas-Vaciamadrid.
This cute little neighborhood, or better to say a town, has around 85 thousand residents, living in tranquility and enjoying their peace and privacy. Most properties in Rivas-Vaciamadrid are multi-store houses with their own front and back yards, surrounded by greenery that protects you from the neighboring views.
This town is perfect for families, for children, for dog owners, but it’s also perfect for coliving.
Being close to Madrid, the colivers can enjoy all the fun, chaos, and opportunities of the capital (which we think everybody knows are plenty), but at the same time, they can enjoy the peace of a residential neighborhood that lets you take a breath, and live a slow and mindful life.
Rivas is close enough to Madrid to go whenever you want, but also far enough from it to not have to rely on going to the city to shop, have fun, or eat out. The suburbia has a few very big shopping malls, with loads of stores, restaurants, and supermarkets. From Coliving Madrid, everything is on a 5-minute car ride and there’s no need to go all the way to the center of Madrid when you need to shop. Moreover, there are a lot of outlets and discounted stores around, making it even better if you need new clothes or other things.
Most importantly, Coliving Madrid has a huge Mercadona supermarket right behind the corner, which makes everyday life easy.
Lastly, Rivas is very calm and green, with a lot of green areas to have a walk, go watch the sunset, enjoy some outdoor sports, etc. It’s the perfect town for a calm after-dinner walk with the colivers.
Like many of the other houses in Rivas-Vaciamadrid, Lu’s place is a two-story home with beautiful big windows looking at the backyard.
The house came to be in Lu’s family many years ago. In fact, his parents bought it in pesetas. For a while it was sitting there, then it became an Airbnb, and now – it’s getting turned into a coliving. The space’s charm comes from its common areas, so let’s start from there.
It all starts with a big driveway and a small front yard right in front of the kitchen glass door. All the common areas of the coliving are on the ground floor which gives a bit more privacy to the top floors that are reserved for bedrooms.
The living room
When you enter, you will be welcomed by a spacious living room with the coziest cinema-like corner: a big corner sofa and a huge TV perfect for movie nights or presentations.
Next to the entertainment corner, there is a lonely spot with an armchair and a leg rest settled in front of the fireplace. This is a perfect spot for when you want to be in the company but not quite actively. You can snuggle up in a winter blanket reading a book, getting some casual work done, or having a glass of wine with your thoughts.
We can say that this big common space has 4 functions or corners – two that we described and two others are a dining area and a coworking spot.
The dining area is right next to the glass door that leads out to the backyard so it receives a lot of natural light, a fresh breeze, and the smell of flowers and plants outside.
This is where the family dinners often happen when the weather is not great to be sitting outside, but it’s also the spot for board game nights which are frequent.
The fourth part of the “living room” is the small coworking corner with two height-adjustable desks.
If you’re not there on time to take one, it’s fine – because there is also a portable laptop top table that you can use while sitting on the couch or the armchair. Because this is a common area, the rule is that one person at a time can have a call, but most people usually take calls at their working desks in their rooms.
The kitchen is the place where everybody gathers. A lot of family dinners, Sunday crepes, and Saturday barbecues mean a kitchen is a happy place in Coliving Madrid, where people often cook together.
Luckily, with an island in the middle, the kitchen is big enough for a few people to work on different things, which makes food prep a lot quicker.
Other than being the central area for food activities, the kitchen is the place where you will find the activity board of the coliving.
This is something Lu implemented (with our help) while we were there and it has proven to be very effective. Now people can have the activity schedule visible at all times which also helps new folks understand the concept and get a grasp of the community dynamics.
Other than that, the kitchen opens up to the front yard which might become a small garden in the future, but for now, it’s a table with a few chairs where people can chill while waiting for their food to be cooked, or even have the meal once it’s done.
Possibly the biggest value of Coliving Madrid’s property is its backyard. And while the coliving can without a doubt work in an apartment, having a private outdoor area takes it to another level.
The small private garden in Coliving Madrid is a perfect place to have your breakfast in peace but also a perfect place for community events when the weather is nice. Right under the grape, on the terrace, there is a big wooden table with six chairs that serves as the area for breakfast, lunch, food parties, or just chilling, soaking up the sun, and having a drink.
This area is also connected to the driveway which becomes a spot for the pool in the summer. Other than that, the garden area is big enough to be a dance floor, for your dog to get zoomies, or simply for chatting with people at the party.
When a bigger event is happening, Lu takes the table and chairs and puts them on the grass area, adds two smaller tables and extra chairs and there’s a real party setting. Lastly, to complete it all, the garden comes with a barbecue place so it’s an absolute choice for every weekend.
The lawn area is natural, full of different colorful flowers and trees and it often attracts birds who you can hear singing the whole day.
And while we were there, Lu participated in a local eco initiative and received compost disposal from the town to put in the coliving, so all the organic waste now has a more ecological place in the compost in the corner of the garden.
Coliving Madrid is a smaller coliving of 5 rooms, 3 on the first floor, and 2 on the second. What is great about this setting is that they are completely separated from the common areas, which gives a bit more privacy for when you want your time.
Two bedrooms on the first floor share a bathroom, and other rooms have their own, while one of the upper rooms is a shared room for 3 people. In its full capacity, Coliving Madrid will be able to receive up to 11 people which is a pretty decent size. At normal capacity, that number would most likely be between 7 and 9.
All the rooms are clean, simple, recently renovated and furnished, and fully equipped with everything needed for a comfortable long stay and work.
Also, each room has a desk and a chair and the shared room will probably have two working spaces. This makes work and life easy and flexible as it allows the colivers to choose if they want to work from their room or from the common areas.
Lastly, as Madrid is known to get crazy hot in the summer, all rooms will have air conditioning for a more comfortable stay.
Being a host is something some people have naturally in them. And Lu definitely does. He is very caring and can instantly become friends with his residents. He will greet and welcome you like a long-expected guest, introduce you to others, and help you feel at home.
As a coliving host, Lu is the heart and soul of the community. This means he brings in the energy, helps push the connections and relationships, acts as a person you can always lean on while in Coliving Madrid, and suggests and organizes events and activities.
Two nationalities and a unique approach to cultural exchange
Whether it’s his experience as a coliver himself, his own cultural mix, or a genuine interest in other people (or both), Lu puts a lot of focus on positive cultural exchange.
In most colivings, people talk about their cultures and backgrounds but there is not so much focus on diversity. In Lu’s place, sharing and comparing experiences, customs, languages, histories, etc. is very frequent and it works amazingly.
Lu was born in China to a Chinese family but moved with them to Spain when he was only 4 years old so he was brought up between two very proud and very colorful cultures – the Chinese and the Spanish.
Nevertheless, he grew up in Barcelona, meaning that he had been speaking 3 languages from an early age. Having these two cultures behind him – Spanish and Chinese (and Catalan), Lu approaches cultural differences with a light perspective and constantly reminds us that a fusion of different cultures can make amazing results.
Lu will lead by asking a question about one’s culture or simply pointing out an interesting fact he previously learned to other residents or community members and it will just instantly spark a conversation. Sometimes, even asking a taboo question takes away the barrier, makes the group laugh it off and connect, and helps us understand that not asking questions like these actually keeps us in the dark and the world of prejudice.
Because of this approach where the host cherishes hearing about the culture of each member, all members get interested in hearing about one another from this perspective, and the national or cultural characteristics become celebrated. Lu also often takes one thing from each culture or member and adopts it into practice and shares it with others.
Of course, in every international community, there will be a lot of cultural exchange, but as a host, it’s Lu’s superpower to unlock these talks and make us celebrate diversity every day and make a very heterogeneous group feel like a family in just a few hours.
Lu has been on the other side of the business
It’s always better if the product or service is offered by somebody who has been on the side of the customer. Lu didn’t wake up one day and decided to make a coliving space; he got inspired after times spent in coliving spaces and international communities as a resident.
Lu stayed in some of the most renowned spaces in Spain – such as Sun & Co. and Nine Coliving, where he learned what works and what doesn’t and how to build the community he always wanted, and made connections to help him along the way.
As he was on the visitor side of the business, Lu knows what things matter and how to make his residents happy.
With tricks and tips he learned from staying in colivings, Lu can experiment with how he will manage his space and choose among several solutions that are proven to work to find what works best for his place.
Lastly, Lu has a young spirit with lots of years of experience making him a versatile communicator and somebody who can connect with people of different ages and different backgrounds, which is aligned with the culture of coliving.
Community and the activities
With all the above in mind, it is time to talk about our experience of the community in Coliving Madrid and how it is built.
When Lu had the idea to build the coliving, he tried hard to learn how to build the community beforehand and acquired some valuable advice from people like Jon from Sun & Co., who’s known for his knowledge of community-building. But of course, every space is different, and unique ways and methods always get discovered along the way. So, Lu has experimented (and still does) with the knowledge he got along the way and his ways to create a unique community experience.
And we can confirm that he is slowly shaping his offering into a unique experience that will very soon have something that none other spaces have. If we were to guess, we would say it will be in the direction of the diversity we spoke about.
But, let’s see what activities and community-building happen in Coliving Madrid.
First, one of the characteristics of Coliving Madrid that stands out among others is the food culture. It’s well known that food always connects people, but it seems that in Coliving Madrid, food plays a big part in the experience. Not intentionally, but it’s undoubtedly there.
Every host unintentionally shapes the coliving experience with their own preferences and so does it happen here. Lu is a big foody himself and loves to cook and share meals with others. Both Chinese and Spanish cultures revolve a lot around shared meals and spending time and bonding over a meal, so it makes sense that this is what he loves to do.
He is also a great cook, and especially good when it comes to dumplings (I will still have dreams about them), and is very generous and selfless when it comes to sharing his resources.
The culture of sharing food in Coliving Madrid doesn’t revolve around hosting or showing off one’s cooking skills. It’s not there to impress and be flashy; it’s all about being humble, generous, and intentionally humane; cooking for others because you want to provide for them, and sharing your culture simply and genuinely, like you would with your family back home.
And then there’s the diversity part. Lu encourages others to share their recipes and show their culture through food and he keeps their cultural legacy by sharing it with others who come after them.
For example, the other day, we had Taco Day. We made tacos at home, followed a Mexican recipe, put on Mexican music, and shared what we all knew about Mexico, even though nobody was Mexican. It came spontaneously, but we enjoyed it very much and learned something new.
Or, if we’re talking about some food events that have become a regular thing in Coliving Madrid, we can speak about Saturday Asado – a typical way of preparing a barbecue in Argentina that got inspired by Lu’s Argentinian friends, or Sunday’s crepes, typical French-style pancakes, which is a custom started by Lu’s French friend and one of the first colivers.
Other than regular events, Lu is always up to explore new things to try – whether in a restaurant, like the time he took us on hotpot, or to try to make it at home, like the time we ate homemade arepas.
Every coliving has a food culture, but believe us when we say, in Coliving Madrid, there is something really special around it.
Community beyond the coliving
Another thing that makes Coliving Madrid different from typical colivings is who makes up the community.
Of course, the core community is always the colivers, but in many colivings, it often ends there. In Coliving Madrid, the community goes way beyond the coliving or, so to say, the coliving is a place where people from and outside the coliving gather and connect.
During semi-open events at the coliving, like the Saturday Asado, residents are encouraged to invite their connections in the city; ex-colivers or friends of colivers or ex-colivers are always welcome if they’re nearby and want to join.
After moving to Madrid, Lu attended a gathering for digital nomads in Madrid and has made some expat friends there who are now always welcome to join events like these.
For a small coliving like Lu’s, connecting the space and colivers with the outsiders from time to time is an amazing opportunity to bring in more quality and value to the experience. Lu also welcomes locals and anyone else who wants to join an international community.
This is also an amazing way for Lu to market not only his space but the coliving movement as well, which is amazing since Madrid, as we already said, does not yet have spaces like this.
Lastly, other than food events, Coliving Madrid also loves board games, hikes, and movie nights.
The living room is a perfect place for board games or movie nights, which are both often happening. Depending on the mood, once a week, one of these two activities will probably happen. If the atmosphere is a bit more energetic, a long game of Uno with some beers will make a Wednesday feel like Friday. And, if the mood is a bit calmer, a good movie will bring up discussions before bed.
And when the weather is nice, especially on Sundays after crepes, it’s a perfect time for a hike. Lu loves to hike and doesn’t mind driving the group if an interesting hike is a bit further away. There is something special about packing snacks, driving off together, and then having a nice mindful walk in nature. Madrid has loads of greenery all around, and, even in Rivas-Vaciamadrid you can find a route for a small hike and enjoy the sunset.
The future of Coliving Madrid
Lu’s space is still young. He doesn’t rush into it and takes time to explore and experiment. In the month we were there, new things were implemented from week to week, and the space and the experience were getting more and more shape. Now that we leave, it’s safe to call it a coliving space and say it’s ready to receive colivers that will further help it shape.
We think Coliving Madrid has a real potential of becoming the first community-focused nomad coliving in Madrid and that Lu has all the right ingredients to make it into that.
We’re super excited to see where it goes, and we highly recommend you visit it, stay with Lu, and add your own stamp to the experience of his building.
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